A kiss and a vaccine revive Pepino to start La Paz carnival

By Gina Baldivieso

La Paz, Feb 6 (EFE).- A triple vaccine dose against Covid-19 and the kiss of a beauty queen revived the mischievous La Paz carnival character Pepino on Sunday in a symbolic act that began pre-carnival celebrations.

Alonso de Mendoza square, in the historic center of La Paz, was chosen for “Pepino’s dig-up” with the participation of municipal authorities and dozens of cholitas from La Paz and Ch’utas, two other characteristic characters of the city and their carnival.

“We are opening the carnival calendar with the traditional ‘Pepino’s dig-up’. It is a very traditional activity that marks the beginning of Carnival,” the municipal secretary of culture, Rodney Miranda, told Efe.

Pepino, an Andean version of the harlequins of the European courts, remained “buried” for two carnivals due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

This year, the Mayor’s Office decided to hold the party due to the good levels of vaccination achieved in the municipality.

Pepino represents the playfulness, joy and debauchery of the carnival, while the Ch’uta and the Cholita introduce Aymara customs into the festival, such as thanking Pachamama or Mother Earth for its fruits.

These three characters were the protagonists of the act led by La Paz Mayor Iván Arias with the carnival queen of eastern Santa Cruz, Dayana Molina, invited as a sign of unity and twinning of the two cities.

Pepino’s coffin was placed in an area of the Tambo Quirquincho Museum that overlooks the square, before Arias and others carried it in a procession around the square along three stops where the Ch’utas and the “widows” of Pepino, some cholitas who wore black veils, begged him to come back to life.

The procession ended on a platform where the coffin was placed and there it was joined by some cholitas, Ch’utas and the Bolivian humorist Daniel Gonzales, dressed as a worker, who urged Pepino to wake up.

First, there was an emulation of rituals with medicinal plants and incense sticks practiced by Gonzales and by the kallawaya master (indigenous doctor, in Aymara) Ch’uta Chukuta.

“Sartam, sartam Pepino” was the phrase in Aymara with which the Ch’uta Chukuta invited the character to come out of the coffin, but since he still didn’t move, Gonzales gave him a triple anti-Covid vaccine shot with a huge syringe made of cardboard and plastic.

Finally, with a kiss from the queen of the Santa Cruz carnival, the character woke up with a jump.

Dressed in a mask and a jumpsuit with lace, Pepino also proudly wore a huge vaccination card that hung around his neck.

The authorities gave him three keys: a yellow one for joy, a green one to celebrate responsibly and a red one to preserve health during the festivities.

Then the party broke out to the rhythm of cheerful tunes characteristic of the Carnival of La Paz, interpreted by the municipal band Eduardo Caba.

La Paz celebrates its Carnival on the condition that biosecurity measures, such as the use of masks and disinfectants, are in place.

In the coming weeks there will be other carnival activities, “between face-to-face, semi-face-to-face, hybrid and virtual” that will mark a “before and after in the cultures of La Paz” after the “lockdown” in the last two years due to the pandemic, Miranda said.

“We have proposed the reactivation of the cultural sector and this also entails the reactivation of the economic sector. We are working for it, we have taken care of ourselves. That is allowing us to have these activities, so we urge the population not to lower their guard and enjoy a biosecure carnival,” he added.

Among the announced activities are exhibitions, a musical production and the traditional folk and costume street parades, except for the children’s parade that used to take place on Carnival Saturday.

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